Laila Makled launched the Washington, D.C., chapter of Women Grow just five months ago. When the young organizer was asked what she sees as the greatest successes to date, she told MJINews that the women and men who come to the meetings are now more than curious; they’re looking to connect. “About a month ago, I started to get inquiries, ‘Can you help me find someone to help me with (fill in the blank).’” When asked what they need most, her answer, “Access to capital.”
Since May, the D.C. chapter has also hosted an impressive group of speakers, including Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives, and Betty Aldworth, Executive Director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
Looking for experts, money and political influence defines much of what fledgling enterprises do. At the local level, Women Grow provides the opportunity for cannabis entrepreneurs to meet and exchange ideas. Working through local chapters, the national organization is a resource for professional education and development opportunities. Together, the goal is to ensure that women are not shut out of a growing sector, as many believe occurred during the tech boom of the 90s.
Building the Team
As Jazmin Hupp, co-founder of the national Women Grow told MJINews in late July, “For women, this isn’t about going it alone. This isn’t about having to learn it all or do it all yourself. This is about building your community around you and putting together the skill set you need to be successful as an organization.”
Networking is, above all the skill set that Women Grow teaches and the D.C. chapter practices. A network takes time to develop, but as a first chore, Makled sees that it is underway.
Networking alone, however, may not be enough to open the door to funding.
Building Entrepreneurial Chops
Women Grow is now also offering a series of webinars produced by the national organization and designed to build basic entrepreneurial skills.
The six-part series offers titles including:
- Cannabis Industry Opportunities,
- Creating Cannabis Products for Women,
- Clarifying Your Cannabis Business Ideas,
- Crafting Your Unique Value Proposition,
- Building Your Team,
- Getting Double Done With Half the Resources, and
- Financial Highlights for Entrepreneurs
All except the last are co-presented by Hupp and Maureen McNamara of Cannabis Trainers, perhaps best known in cannabis circles as the purveyor of Sell-SMaRT, a responsible vendor program. In the final webinar, Andi Gold, healthcare banker and cannabis investor, tackles the basics of balance sheets and key ideas necessary to create a profitable business model.
Lack of access to basic business education is one of the factors that have disadvantaged women-owned businesses in the past. Making basic resources available through local organizations may be a way to right the balance.
Several weeks ago, Newsweek’s cover story breathlessly predicted that legal marijuana could be the first billion-dollar industry not dominated by men. Makled sees local Women Grow chapters as creating the space where women and men could find one another’s skills and ideas.
But the professional development opportunities and support available through the national organization are just as important. The national Women Grow has been recognized as influential in the recent successes of women-owned organizations in winning licenses in competitive states like New York. There is every indication that it will continue to be a force to be reckoned with.